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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Blackboard Award 2009 Goes To Dr. Jose Maldonado-Rivera

Nicole Suriel

Dr. Jose Maldonado-Rivera is quickly becoming a household name, due to the fact that he sent  Nicole Suriel and her class to the beach on June 22, 2010 without an appropriate number of chaparones, and no parent was offered nor signed a permission slip. Nicole Suriel died in the water (see more at the end of this post). He was reprimanded, teacher Erin Baily who was told to accompany the children was fired, and AP Sullivan was demoted.

This outraged parents, yet no one focused on the root problem: Dr. Maldonado-Rivera was running a scam at his school, raising money by having children compete in contests and raise money for his fake nonprofit, then win awards. That's how Nicole Suriel ended up on the beach without the necessary safety measures in place. The NYC DOE has given principals the authority to put fraud and corruption above students' health, safety, and welfare, and we all must stop the coverups and wrongdoing - I think by publicizing what is going on.

The NYC DOE knew all about the scam, as I and another parent have been in touch with an investigator from SCI since 2004 about these sorts of fraudulent money-taking scams, first at Stuyvesant High School where the antics of Paola De Kock have been documented, and then at Columbia Secondary School as well as at Shuang Wen. I still remember the day I spoke with the auditors of the Stuyvesant High School Parent's Association, and they whispered into the phone, "Betsy, there is so much money missing we could not do an audit."...when I reported this to SCI, Paola and her crew started their campaign to get rid of me and Mary Lok, the chinese parent also asking questions. Scott Stringer's Attorney Jimmy Yan left a message on my cell phone saying that he was pursuing answers, but he never followed up. I have Mr. Yan's message on my cellphone to this day, to remind me that Scott Stringer never helped me or the chinese parents find out where the money from the Stuy PA was stored or for what it was used.

Manhattan Media was convinced that by giving Dr. Maldenado-Rivera a Principal of the Year award, this would divert attention away from him and his school, so that the scheme to steal money from the parents could go on without anyone noticing. Manhattan Media gave a program called DELTA at Booker T. Washington MS 54 an award as middle school of the year in 2004, as a way to cover up the racial discrimination and special education fraud of Principal Larry Lynch. DELTA was not a middle school but an Honors program, one of 5, within MS 54.

Who gives the Blackboard Awards? None other than Tom Allon, running for Mayor in 2013. I, for one, will not be voting for him.


2009: Principals of the Year

Vision and Passion for Teaching
Big strides for school that caters to high-achieving minority students

Since the opening of Columbia Secondary School in fall 2007, Dr. Jose Maldonado-Rivera has immersed himself in education, spending 12 to 14 hours a day pushing students to succeed and providing support for teachers. In the little spare time that remains, he works on his book about public versus private school startups, and teaches a course at Columbia College. Then there’s the occasional substitute teaching; due to budget cuts, Maldonado-Rivera would rather cover a class himself than pay for a substitute.
“I can learn along with them and teach them at the same time,” he said. “If you don’t love them [your students], it’s not going to work. They need to feel like you care about them and about their future so much that they can trust you.”
Dr. Jose Maldonado-Rivera
Born and raised on a farm in Vega Alta, Puerto Rico, Maldonado-Rivera, 47, attended an elite public school that had a partnership with the University of Puerto Rico. Maldonado-Rivera went on to earn two Ph.D.s—one in ecology and evolution at University of California Santa Barbara, and the other in science education at Columbia University’s Teacher’s College.
In 2006, he was tapped by the city and Columbia University President Lee Bollinger to create the Columbia Secondary School, a world-class secondary school that serves high-achieving minority students in Upper Manhattan. Foregoing a cushier job at an international private school that he helped create in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Maldonado-Rivera decided to return to a long term goal of his: providing underprivileged students with a world-class education.
In just three years, Maldonado-Rivera helped create a top-ranking public school that has a 7 percent acceptance rate. More than half of the middle schoolers come from low-income families, but 96 percent of students scored a 3 or a 4 on the 6th grade English Language Arts exam in 2007-2008, and 99 percent of 6th graders scored a 3 or a 4 on the math exam that same year.
Included in Columbia Secondary School’s rich curriculum is “J-term,” a June mini-semester that involves adventurous learning experiences at home or abroad, including a popular biodiversity trip to Puerto Rico with Maldonado-Rivera.
The school offers more than 50 enrichment courses, ranging from Egyptian art to genetics to bioethics.
“Middle school is where the fork occurs,” Maldonado-Rivera said. “If you’re going to hook them, it’s going to occur then. If you don’t, you have lost the battle.”
Teachers, parents and students all praise Maldonado-Rivera for revolutionizing the standard middle school curriculum.
“He was able to verbalize his vision,” said Beth Fidoten, mother of 8th grader Jacob Fidoten. “You have to have the vision but also the leadership to see it though. Principal Maldonado has both to galvanize a community and make it happen.”
Eighth grader Antonio Taveras’s favorite elective is Maldonado-Rivera’s course on marine biology. Though strict, “he is really good about using his sense of humor in class,” Taveras said.
Marianthi Markatou, a Columbia University biostatistics professor, took her daughter, Lilly Talal, out of a nearby private school so she could attend Columbia Secondary School in 6th grade. The reason was simple.
“Maldonado’s vision and passion for teaching,” she said, “is contagious.”
— Aline Reynolds
Dr. Jose Maldonado-Rivera,
Columbia Secondary School
425 W. 123rd St.
New York, N.Y. 10027

Above: Dr. Jose Maldonado-Rivera leads one of the most popular “J-term” projects at Columbia Secondary: a biodiversity trip to Puerto Rico. Photo by Andrew Schwartz

Teacher Fired After City Probe Deems Nicole Suriel's Death a Result of 'Poor Judgment' Reports Say 

Updated July 15, 2010 6:10am

By Simone Sebastian
DNAinfo Reporter/Producer
HARLEM — A first-year teacher was reportedly fired Wednesday after a city probe revealed that she let students who couldn't swim into the water during a beach field trip last month that ended in the drowning of 12-year-old Nicole Suriel.
Erin Bailey, a 26-year-old teacher at Columbia Secondary School who told her students, "If you can't swim, don't go in the water past your waist," was fired Wednesday, according to the Wall Street Journal. The school's assistant principal, Andrew Stillman, was demoted and its principal, Jose Maldonado-Rivera, was reprimanded.
"We will be reviewing the regulations on field trips and will be making appropriate changes in light of this tragedy," schools spokeswoman Natalie Ravitz said, the paper reported.
The report on the city's investigation, headed up by Special Commissioner for the Department of Education Richard Condon, said the rookie eight-grade English teacher displayed "poor conduct" during the June 22 field trip. The report also faulted the school for failing to properly plan for the outing and for the lack of adult supervision.
The school's principal, Maldonado-Rivera, sent an e-mail to parents only the day before the trip saying students should come to school the next day "dressed to swim and play in the sun."
Assistant Principal Andrew Stillman, who has reportedly since been demoted to tenured teacher, was supposed to be on the trip to help supervise, but did not attend because he felt too overwhelmed with work, the report said.
That left Bailey a one of only three adults supervising the 24 students on June 22. The others were her 28-year-old boyfriend Joseph Garnevicus, who couldn't swim, and 19-year-old teaching intern Victoria Wong.
Wong saved at least four students, while an unidentified beachgoer saved one other. Bailey saved one child before she needed rescuing from the Coast Guard, who also said they pulled out another child.
But nobody could get to Nicole, whose body was discovered in the water an hour later.
The report also said that the school did not provide permission slips to parents for the trip. Instead, parents were given two "universal" permission slips at the beginning of the year that had them signing off on out-of-school trips and their children using the swimming pool at the school.
Several students interviewed in the report remembered Bailey telling them on that fatal day to stay in the shallow water. Some even remembered seeing the "No Lifeguard" signs that beach officials say were posted at every entrance to the beach that day. Bailey did not participate in the investigation and has a UFT lawyer representing her.
Oliver Storch, an attorney for the Suriel family, called the report "very thorough," and noted that it showed a series of failures in planning and supervision of the trip.
"This was a tragedy from the inception," Storch said. The report "speaks volumes. It's quite definitive on where the blame lies."
Storch said he is discussing the report with the Suriel family, but he would not comment on whether they would be filing a lawsuit.
"They are still destroyed and in terrible pain," he said.
The report was copied to Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice "for whatever action she deems appropriate."
A spokeswoman for Rice said the DA "is engaged in a thorough review of the facts and circumstances concerning the tragic death of 12 year old Nicole Suriel."

Nicole Suriel's Life Ended Amid Panic After Weeks of Poor Planning Updated July 15, 2010 11:29am

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